All God's Children

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There is a debate as to whether Willie’s problems were rooted in his family and in him as an individual or whether it was the systems that failed him. This paper will reflect on these two perspectives and the tension between them. Willie was from birth a very active child. His early behavior before the age of six included slapping women’s behinds and stealing old men’s canes. His family found his behavior funny and entertaining. Even as he was being admitted to Wiltwyck at age 9, he was peeking up the receptionists skirt and his mother Laura was laughing! Willie learnt that outrageous acts gain attention; his mother also taught him to hit back, be tough and swear in order to gain respect on the street. He took this learning with him into the schools and the classroom. Laura would compare Willie to his father and tell him that he was bad and no good. She kept herself at an emotional distance from him and this led to Willie’s neglect and rejection. She engaged in a series of destructive romantic relationships when Willie was a child and he witnessed her getting into fights, arguments, burned and beaten. These incidents led to violent reactions in Willie including arson, suicide idealization and slashing with a knife. Although Willie was bright he did not utilize the opportunities of school and his repeated misbehaviors got so out of hand that at age 8 he was ordered to be sent for psychiatric observation. It was at this point that the tension between the system and the family could be first seen. Dr. Hassibi at Bellevue wanted to keep Willie on for an extended period of observation but his mother ignored the doctor’s advice and gave in to Willie’s manipulative demands and signed him out. At the time she may have felt that Willie was her responsibility but then just a year later, after Willies mounting delinquencies, she took him to family court as a person in need of supervision. The presiding judge, Judge Felix felt that Willie was his mother’s problem and that...
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